Chromatica: Lady GaGa on Mental Health and Self Love

Rain on Me Video. Directed by Robert Rodriguez

 In Lady GaGa’s iconic overnight hit featuring Ariana Grande, Rain on Me, Gaga and Grande sing:  “I can feel it on my skin/ It’s coming down on me/ Teardrops on my face/ like misery… I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive.” A precursor to the launch of her sixth album, Chromatica, the single galvanized public attention, leading the top of the charts in ten countries across the world. GaGa and Grande fans have come together to celebrate their unexpected collaboration, as the song reached 8.1 million plays in one week. But the song is more than an explosive video, GaGa dancing in futuristic, punk platforms, or even the electronic melody of their voices in harmony. What is perhaps so provocative about the piece — aside from the fact that Lady GaGa has completely reinvented herself for her sixth album— is that it is unabashedly candid. Throughout the album, she addresses her personal experience with mental health, overcoming trauma, and healing. In a recent interview with Apple ’s Zane Lowe, GaGa shared that “I think that the beginning of the album really symbolizes, for me, what I would call the beginning of my journey to healing… and what I would hope would be an inspiration for people that are in need of healing through happiness, through dance.”

A decade after her debut album, The Fame (2008), made her a global star, GaGa’s career trajectory has been a rollercoaster of experimentation, outspoken ideas, and, of course, shocking wardrobe choices. As her fans know, she has long used her music as a platform for storytelling and social activism: from Poker Face, an exploration of her sexuality, (The Fame, 2008) and Hair, a plea to be free from bullying and societal restraints, to Joanne (Joanne, 2011), a tribute to her late aunt, who passed away from lupus. And now, Chromatica is an exploration of GaGa’s powerful return to dance and her journey towards healing along the way.

The album is divided into three sections, and GaGa encourages her fans to listen to the songs in sequence, as they function as a narrative. The first section— which features Alice, Stupid Love, Rain on Me, Free Woman, and Fun Tonight— serves as the thesis of her album. It discusses themes personal to her heart, and her ability to continue dancing and creating in spite of the obstacles she fights each and every day. It addresses mental and trauma through a hopeful lens. For instance, Alice, a fan favorite, narrates her journey down a -hole, insinuating a long-lasting personal battle with mental illnesses—  and the wonderland at the end that she searches for everyday. Similarly, Free Woman reflects upon re-claiming agency over her own body as she copes with sexual trauma. The second section— 911, Plastic Doll, Sour Candy (featuring Blackpink), Enigma, and Replay— gives her fans a glimpse into the darkest parts of her past. She grapples with trauma, perfectionism, and addiction in these electronic tunes with raw candor. Additionally, this section is the most electronic in the album, adding yet another unexpected genre to GaGa’s list of musical fortés and experiences. Over the course of her twelve year career, she struggles to overcome these issues, which she addresses in the third section. Chromatica III includes Sine from Above (featuring Elton John), 1000 Doves, and Babylon, a hopeful ending to her journey towards healing. In 1000 Doves, she sings: “I’m not perfect yet, but I’ll keep trying/ When your tears are falling, I’ll catch them as they fall/ ….Lift me up, give me a start/ ‘Cause I’ve been flying with some broken arms/ Lift me up, just a small nudge/ And I’ll be flying like a thousand doves.” There isn’t necessarily a sense of foreclosure at the end of her narrative, as GaGa suggests that she continues to grapple with trauma and identity everyday, but there is a sense of tranquillity and self-acceptance. The narrative is moving, and frankly, even more so than the electronic undertones of the album, completely unprecedented in the world of pop— a testament to Lady GaGa’s versatility and influence as an artist.

Chromatica Album Cover. Photo Credits: Norbert Schoerner

GaGa utilizes her ’s global presence as a platform for starting a vulnerable dialogue on mental and self-love. GaGa has complimented the launch of her album with various conversations around mental in her professional career, from a recent conversation with Oprah on mental resources to various initiatives led by her non-profit organization, The Born This Way Foundation. Through narrating her decade-long battle with mental , and even admitting to the shame and coping mechanisms that ensued, she destigmatizes mental illnesses, especially in an industry that strives for perfectionism. The album has been met with millions of messages from her fans via Twitter and Instagram, expressing their gratitude for her message and sharing their personal stories. Though her is often recognized for its catchy tunes and audacious accompanying performances, Chromatica is a testament to the depth and impact of her work. The album, which has been publicized through eye-catching graphics and a shocking new genre, revitalizes the pop industry with the authenticity, hope, and healing it brings to its listeners. 

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Photo credits: Robert Rodriguez & Norbert Schoerner.
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